Looking for a quick and easy way to fancy-up your windows? A valance is faster than traditional curtain panels, and can even be used in conjunction with curtains or blinds to add some fashion flair. They've always reminded me of little window skirts. I think it's the way they gather across the rod and flare out along the bottom. These were so pretty when done, I could totally envision actually wearing them as a skirt! The key is the mixture of fabrics with a pretty lace. Choose a solid and a coordinating print that will be divided by narrow, see-though lace insets. Decorative stitching along the top and bottom adds the finishing touch.
Our valances were made for a standard 40" wide window. The rule-of-thumb for width measurement is to make your fabric panel one-and-a-half to two times the width of the window. The wider the panel, the more gathered it will appear. If you want more of a flat look, start with a narrower panel.
The standard height for a valance is 18", however, this is also totally up to you. Go shorter if you're looking for just a bit of color high across the window. Go longer if you're overlaying a curtain panel or want a more elegant feel. Our valances finished at appoximately 70" wide x 18" high.
The other measurement you'll need to double-check and adjust as needed is the width of the casing tunnel. We used a skinny, ¾" tension rod for our samples. The casing tunnel is 1" to accommodate this rod. The rod should fit snuggly into the casing in order to nicely hold the gathers across the width of the window. It's unlikely you'll have a tension rod much smaller than this, but if yours is larger, adjust the top hem accordingly to allow for a wider opening.
The softness of the fabric and the lace will affect the drape and gather of your valance. On our baby valance, we used thinner, softer cottons along with an equally soft lace. This created tighter gathers and a more billowy effect to the panel.
The gray modern valance used a combination of slightly thicker cottons and the lace is also a bit stiffer – almost like a tatting. This gave the valance a crisper look and produced more flare along the bottom roll of the hem.
The original fabrics used for our samples were from our Sew4Home stash and are no longer readily available. We found some similar alternatives for the print panels at Fabric.com. From left to right Kona Cotton Meringue shown in the first two swatches with Bobo Baby Dandy Flower Pink Pastel in the first swatch and Contempo My Little Sunshine Pinstripe Yellow in the second; Kona Cotton Shadow shown in the last two swatches with Riley Blake Safari Party Elephants White in the third swatch and Andover/Makower Doodle Days Clouds Grey in the forth.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Open Toe Satin Stitch foot; optional, but helpful for decorative stitching
Fabric and Other Supplies
Supply quantities shown are for ONE valance for a 40" wide window. As mentioned above, the standard width calculation is 1.5 to 2 times the window width. Our valances finish at approximately 70" in width x 18" in length.
- 1 yard of a 44"+ wide solid light to mid-weight fabric
- ½ yard of a 44"+ wide coordinating printedlight to mid-weight fabric
- 4 yards of 1½" - 2" wide lace that is finished on both sides; we used natural cotton lace, purchased locally - 1½" wide for the gray valance and 2" wide for the yellow valance
NOTE: The lace strips are topstitched in place to allow for the cleanest finish on the back of the valances (remember, they are just a single layer of fabric), which is why you want a lace with a finished edge both top and bottom.
- 2 yards of 12"+ wide tearaway stabilizer for decorative stitching
NOTE: Stabilizer is optional for decorative stitching. Check your machine's manual for recommendations. We suggest it most instances.
- All purpose thread to match fabric for construction
- All purpose thread to contrast/coordinate with fabric for decorative stitching; we used light gray for both valances
NOTE: You could also use a rayon embroidery thread for a shiny look; with our natural lace, we preferred the matte finish of standard polyester thread.
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Tape measure
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Straight pins
- From the solid fabric, cut the following:
TWO 8¾" x 36" rectangles for the top horizontal panels
TWO 6¾" x 36" rectangles for the bottom horizontal panels
- From the print fabric, cut TWO 7½" x 36" rectangles for the center horizontal panels.
- Cut the lace in half into TWO two-yard lengths.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
- Place the three pairs of horizontal panels right sides together (two pairs of solid panels and one pair of print panels). Pin each pair together along one end.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch each pair together.
- Finish the seam allowance with your chosen method. Because this valance is not meant to be lined, we used and recommend an inside flat felled seam. This requires grading one side of the seam allowance.
- Folding to encase the raw edges.
- Then topstitching in place on the right side.
NOTE: If you are new to this technique, we have a full step-by-step tutorial on flat felled seams. We also have a four-part series on other machine sewn seam finishes, which outlines many other options.
- When finished, you should have three horizontal panels of varying heights, each 71" long.
- Find the top solid panel (the 8¾" panel). Make a 2¾" double-fold hem along the long top edge (with a solid panel, you get to choose which is the top edge). To create the hem, fold back the raw edge ¼" and press well.
- Fold back an additional 2½" and press again. Lightly pin in place.
- Along the bottom raw edge, make a ½" narrow, double turn hem. To do this, fold back the raw edge ¼" and press well, then fold an additional ¼" and press well. Pin in place.
NOTE: Another option for this type of narrow hem is to fold back the raw edge ½" to start and then simply tuck the raw edge back into the fold so the final width is ¼". Some people like this method because a tiny ¼" pressed edge can be hard to keep consistent over long lengths.
- Find one length of lace. Place the top edge of the lace directly over the narrow bottom hem of the top solid panel. You are placing the lace on the right side of the fabric panel. Pin in place across the entire length, making sure the lace stays straight. You can simply re-use the pins holding the narrow hem in place, re-pinning through the lace and the fabric.
- If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the lace in the top and to best match the fabric in the bobbin.
- Edgestitch the lace to the fabric panel, running the seam approximately ⅛" in from the bottom of the hem. You should be able to use your presser foot as a guide to keep the seam straight as the hem should be easily visible through the lace. This seam attaches the lace and secures the narrow hem
- Find the middle print panel. Following the same steps as above, make a narrow ½" double turn hem (¼" + ¼") along both the long top edge and the long bottom edge of this panel. Press well and pin both hems in place.
- Find the remaining length of lace. Place it along the bottom edge of the print panel – again you are working on the right side of the fabric panel. Stitch in place as you did above with the first length of lace.
- Attach the top and center panels by joining them along the first length of lace. The remaining free edge of the top length of lace should be placed over the top narrow hem of the center print panel. Pin in place and then stitch in place. Make sure your center vertical seams align.
- Find the remaining solid horizontal panel (the 6¾" panel). It also gets a top and bottom hem. The top hem should be the narrow ½" double turn hem (¼" + ¼"). The bottom hem should be a 1¾" hem. Fold back the raw edge ¼" and press. Then fold back an additional 1½" and press again. Simply press this bottom hem in place.
- Join the bottom panel to the assembled top and center panels in the same manner as above. Place the free edge of the second length of lace over the top narrow hem of the bottom panel and stitch in place.
Final hemming, casing and decorative stitching
- Unfold the bottom and top hems so the sides of the valance are a continuous vertical raw edge.
- Make a narrow ½" double turn hem (¼" + ¼") along both side edges.
- Fold and press the side edges, lightly pin in place, and edgestitch to secure.
NOTE: If necessary, re-thread the machine with thread to best match the the combination of lace and fabric in both the top and bobbin so you can stitch one long seam.
- Fold the bottom and top hems back into place, following the original pressed crease lines. Re-pin in place.
- Along the top edge, you need two seams to create the rod casing and the little top ruffle that extends up above the casing. Run the first seam 1½" from the top folded edge.
- The second seam (the bottom of the casing) will be created with the decorative stitching.
- Place the optional tear away stabilizer behind the upper half of the top panel.
- Select a decorative stitch that coordinates with your printed fabric and/or your lace.
- Re-thread the machine with the contrasting thread in the top and bobbin. We used a soft gray for both valances.
- Center the first row of decorative stitching right over the bottom of the hem. On our sample, this meant the center of the stitch was 2½" from the top folded edge of the fabric. Stitch all the way across, adding the embellishment and creating the bottom seam of the casing in one step.
NOTE: As mentioned above, we used a thin tension rod for our samples, creating the casing at 1" to fit the ¾" rod. You need to be able to slip the rod through the casing, but want a fairly tight fit to achieve a nice gather across the valance. You will need to adjust the sizing of your hem wider (wider than the original 2¾" in our instructions) and adjust the two casing seam lines (the plain seam line and the decorative seam line) to accommodate a thicker rod.
- Run a parallel line of decorative stitching just below the first line. The exact width will be based on your chosen stitch as well as what looks best to you. The centers of our two stitch lines were ½" apart.
- Remove the tear away stabilizer.
- Place the optional tear away stabilizer behind the lower half of the bottom panel.
- Run one final line of decorative stitching across the bottom of the panel. For our sample, the center of the stitch was 1½" from the bottom folded edge of the fabric. As above, it should be centered directly over the folded inner edge of the hem, securing the hem and adding embellishment in one seam.
- Remove the tear away stabilizer.
- Press well and hang.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Debbie Guild